Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Daddy's Girl

My dad died nearly 22 years ago from cancer. I was 8. He died on Mother's day.

I don't remember a ton about life with a dad. I remember getting stung by a bee while running around the yard bare foot and he gave me some ice cream and made it all better. I remember he let me try a sip of beer when I was 4 and I hated it (that was the point).

I remember being woken up in the wee hours of the morning, heading out to his truck where he'd give me the warm buttered toast and hot cocoa he'd prepared, and we'd go off to fish. He was a Fisheries Biologist and a total fisherman at heart. We lived in Port Angeles at this point and the ocean was never far.

There was one time I can remember when I was bored and sick out on the boat (it gets rough out there you know) and wanted to go back in, but he bribed me with the promise of roller skates and a milkshake if we could just stay one more hour. =) He was that addicted to fishing.

I have a photo of me at around age 6 or 7 holding a fish that I caught - it was nearly as tall as me at the time. I was a daddy's girl. Through and through.

I also remember sitting in our living room on the floor while he laid on the couch with an IV in him. We'd play board games. He even went to work with his IV toward the end. He was a workaholic.

I have a vague memory of sitting in the family room on the couch looking out the window waiting for him to come home.

No one ever told me or my brother that he was dying. Apparently he made my mom promise that she wouldn't tell us. That was very stupid. Don't ever do that to your kids. It screws them up. Face up and tell them the truth - even if it is an ugly and scary truth.

One day we went to visit him in the hospital, which wasn't that uncommon by this point. I remember giving him ice chips and seeing his tongue, cracked and dry. My mom took us into a room at the hospital and sat us down. She asked us what we thought was going to happen to daddy.

"He's going to get better and come home" was my chipper response. I've always been a little optimistic and stupid when it comes to reality right in my face. She shook her head. That was the first we'd ever heard or knew that we were going to lose our dad. My brother was 5. One week later he died. I think he was mad at my mom for telling us.

We were at my grandma's house when he died, one week after mom's talk. They'd sent us away. I still resent that. She got a phone call while we were watching cartoons. She called me into her room and told me. I don't remember what I did but I don't think I cried. I don't remember crying in front of anyone. Even at the funeral. Maybe I did but the only time I remember crying is when I was alone. I even hid in a closet and cried by myself.

Everything changed after he died and my life was never the same. No longer carefree. No longer oblivious. More grown up than most grown ups. I still hate to cry in front of people. And I'm sad that the memories I wrote here are truly all I can remember about him.


heidi said...

yeah it's tough dealing with death and kids. I think adults "think" they are somehow protecting kids by shielding them from death, but the reality is all they are doing is encouraging denial and teaching kids to repress their emotions - both of which are unhealthy. But then again, if that's the way they were shown, then why would they teach their children any differently. I'm sorry for your loss all those years ago. It's ok to cry.

Karen said...

It's tough losing your dad, I can't imagine what it would have been like being so young. I, too, think it's important to be open about what's really happening with kids. They are more resilient and caring than I think people give them credit for. I lost my dad a month after I graduated high school. He was a workaholic and I don't have many memories of him. But the ones I have are precious to me.